SAN MANUEL, AZ - Two men have been arrested for allegedly stealing copper wire from a mine in San Manuel.
According to the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, several thefts at BHP Mine had been reported during the past year and were being investigated.
On Saturday, a deputy was on patrol and stopped by the closed mine to conduct a security check of the property.
The deputy found a large hand dug tunnel which he believed was being used by the suspects to steal copper in the past.
As he stood at the top of the tunnel, the deputy could hear movement inside the tunnel and called for additional deputies to respond.
Around 8:30 p.m. 46-year-old Victor Gutierrez of San Manuel stuck his head out of the top of the tunnel and he was taken into custody at gunpoint by deputies.
About 20 minutes later, deputies climbed into the tunnel and found 34-year-old San Manuel resident Mark Jimenez and ordered him out of the tunnel, taking him into custody.
Officials say both men were wearing headlamps to allow them to see inside the tunnel.
Deputies discovered during the case that the suspects had damaged and removed over $10,000 worth of copper.
Detectives and deputies were able to recover several 30 foot long sections of copper weighing approximately 500 pounds.
Both suspects admitted to stealing large quantities of copper over the last year, officials said.
They said they would either burn or strip the plastic coating off the wire and sell it in Tucson.
BHP mine reported that it has cost them several hundred thousand dollars to replace and repair the stolen copper during the last year alone.
Gutierrez and Jimenez were both booked into the Pinal County Adult Detention Center for trafficking in stolen property, burglary, aggravated criminal damage and possession of burglary tools.